Is it necessary to do MCSE before going for CCNA? I have done a private course on networking. I would also like to know, "What kind of job does a fresh CCNA certificate holder get (regarding salary, post...)?"

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Strictly speaking, it isn't necessary to pursue the MCSE before chasing the CCNA. That said, if your goal is to get a job with the minimum number of certifications -- which I perceive may be what's driving your question, so I hope I'm not reading too much between the lines here -- a CCNA by itself is not usually enough to significantly improve the odds of finding a job in networking. The CCNA is a single-exam certification and though it is more demanding than many other single-exam certs like the Novell CNA or Microsoft MCP, it's not considered "serious" or "meaningful" enough to provide reasonable expectations of employment in its wake. If what you're looking for is the right minimal set of certs to help improve your job chances, then indeed the MCSE and CCNA would be a better combination than the CCNA by itself. The same would also be true of CNE and CCNA, or CCNA, CCNP, and CCDP in combination.

What will help you even more than certification, however, in finding entry level work is to start volunteering at a local school, university, church, charity, or any other organization that will permit you to work on their systems and network infrastructure, so that you can start learning more about networking administration, management, and maintenance by doing, rather than by reading or taking exams. This kind of experience is what employers value most, and if you can come to your first "real job interview" with a legitimate claim of such experience under your belt, it will improve your odds of finding work more than you might believe.

Good luck in your search for meaningful employment. Because of the current tight economic situation, entry-level jobs are harder to find than usual. That's why I'm recommending what may seem like extreme measures to help you improve your odds of landing such a position.

This was first published in March 2003

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